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Escape from Sobibor Paperback – July 1, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0252064791 ISBN-10: 0252064798 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition (July 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252064798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252064791
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,047,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Information on the Sobibor concentration camp was sketchy at best until Rashke tracked down and interviewed as many of the survivors as possible. The result, said LJ's reviewer, is "the first reliable history of this camp. A well-researched and well-written work" (LJ 10/1/82).
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Brilliantly reconstructs the degradation and drama of Sobibor." -- San Francisco Chronicle. "A sensitive, thoughtful, and well-researched account of the 'biggest prisoner escape of World War II.'" -- Jewish Chicago. "Breathtakingly suspenseful and horrifying at the same time." -- Publishers Weekly

More About the Author

RICHARD RASHKE is a lecturer and author of non-fiction books including Stormy Genius: The Life of Aviation's Maverick Bill Lear, Useful Enemies: John Demjanjuk and America's Open Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals, Escape from Sobibor, and The Killing of Karen Silkwood. Rashke is featured in the award-winning international television series Nazi Hunters. His works have been translated into eleven languages and have been the subject of movies for screen and television. A produced screenwriter and playwright, his work has appeared on network television and off-Broadway. He is also an alto sax player and composer. His latest composition, Crane Wife, a family musical based on a Japanese folktale, was performed at the Kennedy Center, and a new play, Dear Esther, based on a Sobibor prisoner, will open in 2013. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

This is a book you will never forget.
Alyssa A. Lappen
This is an extremely well done and researched account of the horrors that went on in Sobibor and undoubtedly other Nazi prison and death camps near the end of WWII.
R. McCormick
Very well written and informative book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa A. Lappen TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
The release of Claude Lanzmann's new documentary about the escape from Sobibor may cause readers to flock to this book, first published in 1982. (Lanzmann this week won Israel's highest cinematic honor for his film). It should.

As Richard Rashke noted in his 1982 introduction, even then almost no one had ever heard of Sobibor, although it had been the scene of the biggest prisoner escape in World War II, on October 14, 1943 at 4 p.m. Why? Millions of pages of Nazi records included only three documents on Sobibor--like Treblinka and Belzec, a top secret death factory. These 3 places, unlike Auschwitz and Dachau and thousands of other camps, had no satellite labor camps.

Here, virtually everyone was sent immediately to their deaths. The handful of survivors were those enslaved to process transports. Even these laborers, if they did not die of exhaustion or starvation, were largely murdered after a very short while.

Poland's pre-glasnost Commission for German War Crimes estimated that the Nazis gassed at minimum 1.65 million Jews (25% of all those murdered in the Holocaust) in these three camps alone--250,000 of them at Sobibor, which Rashke called Heinrich Himmler's "best-kept secret."

This book was perhaps the first lengthy expose of such a place. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Rashke interviewed 18 of Sobibor's 30 survivors, who warmly welcomed his inquiries because he is not Jewish. He interviewed escape co-leaders Alexander (Sasha) Perchersky (in the Soviet Union) and Stanislaw (Shlomo) Szmajner (in Brazil) and spoke for more than 10 days with Thomas (Toivi) Blatt, who survived Sobibor for six months and made it his business to know everything about that hell. Rashke's subjects also included Chaim and Selma Engel in the U.S.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Gary Mull on July 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book represents a painful retelling of life and death in a World War II Nazi death camp where some 250,000 Jews were taken. Nearly all of them were quickly exterminated, but a sliver of a percent escaped, and from them we learn about Sobibor. We learn how thousands of lives were snuffed out daily and how thousands of bodies were disposed of daily. We learn how the "lucky" ones, chosen to work at the camp, dealt with gruesome events associated with the daily march toward annihilation of their race.
After reading this book, I have a much deeper understanding not only of what Jews have been through, but how this leads many of them to think. I noticed that Rashke helped me understand the Jewish mindset, but not the Nazi mindset. I suppose Rashke didn't take this one on because there really is no defensible logic for Nazi behavior. What in the world led so many Nazis to conclude that Jews deserved no dignity or treatment as humans? What could I possibly learn from someone who could "pick up a baby by the feet, smash its head against a boxcar, and then toss it into the miners' train like a dead rat" (p. 92 in the paperback).
The book ends with about 75 pages that explain how Rashke found and interviewed the people whose stories are told in "Escape from Sobibor." It's a useful format to place this at the end of the book, since by now I'm involved in their lives and want to know what happened after the war ended. This section reveals that the survivors are never really free of Sobibor. There are daily reminders and frequent nightmares. But I'm thankful that they were willing to open the wounds and bleed again. Stories like this, despite the injustice and atrocity and inhumanity they expose, should never be buried.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Austin on July 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is one of the best books depicting the horror and determination of the Jewish people and supporters. It incites hatred and disgust on a whole new levels for the Nazi's and their followers, and also brings a real like look at the Jews in the camp; playing chess, falling in love and escaping with extreme courage.

The book, however, is at times a little confusing with time periods and events, rather than staying in chronological order I wish the auther would have stuck with characters instead. I would read about someone in Chapter 1, then in Chapter 10 and have to go back and reread saying "Oh ok him." I would also have to reread certain sections because it was with history, personal, political agendas mixed in. I understand the author's wish for extreme detail and the many characters necessity but the flow of the book would throw me off time to time.

Over all a good read and an even greater story of heroism.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Christine J. Anderson on March 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Escape from Sobibor, by Richard Rashke, is a profound work. It was even more disturbing and thought-provoking than my visit to the Jewish Concentration Camp in Dachau, Germany.

The book reveals a startling and detailed picture of the atrocities committed at the super-secret Sobibor Jewish Extermination Camp in Poland, where more than 250,000 Jews were tortured and murdered during World War II. Approximately 600 "fortunate" Jews were spared to maintain the camp, assist with "processing" prisoners, and perform other duties for the Nazis. Of this group, some 300 escaped one well-planned afternoon - the only successful Jewish breakout from a Nazi prisoner camp. All but about 30 were recaptured and executed.

Through intimate, sensitive interviews with survivors and meticulous research, Rashke fills the empty boots of Holocaust victims with bodies, faces, hearts, and souls. He demonstrates how spirit, strength, cooperation, and luck drove the escapees to fulfill their mission - to let the world know what was really going on behind the pristine facade so carefully cultivated by the SS at Sobibor.

Escape from Sobibor answers one question the uninformed always ask, "Why didn't the Jews resist?" Many tried, as Rashke describes so well. Inside the camp, the Jews faced overwhelming odds. They were unarmed, denied the right to assemble, and often betrayed by staff and fellow prisoners. Outside the camp, they were surrounded by mostly hostile and frightened neighbors who would not provide food, shelter, or weapons and who also frequently betrayed them.
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